Visit South America and travel through Peru and Bolivia's highlights.

Travel from Lima to La Paz and explore the best of Peru and Bolivia on this adventure through ancient ruins, breathtaking scenery and colourful market towns. From the mysterious Inca ruins of the highlands and the lush jungles and exotic wildlife of the Amazon to the vast expanses of Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni, discover the highlights of this fascinating part of South America.

Start
Lima, Peru
Finish
La Paz, Bolivia
Countries
Themes
Explorer
Code
GGSUC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
769kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Venture into the Amazon Jungle
  • Discover colonial Cuzco
  • Explore the sights of the Sacred Valley
  • See the sun rise over Machu Picchu
  • Experience the bustling markets of La Paz
  • Visit the heart of Bolivia in whitewashed Sucre
  • Discover underground history in Potosi
  • 4x4 through the surreal landscapes of the Salar de Uyuni

Itinerary

Arrive in Peru's sprawling capital, Lima, and unravel its fascinating history on a walking tour around the city's major sights. The vibrant suburb of Miraflores is full of cafes, bars and restaurants, so why not use the free time to sample some local culinary delights.
Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado (approx 2 hrs).
Upon arrival, the lodge staff will take us to their office in town where you'll leave most of your luggage in a safe storage and continue travelling with a small pack with just the necessary items for our next two nights in the jungle. Then take a motorized canoe up river to our jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios area.
Once you arrive at the lodge there is time to unpack and unwind before a short orientation and briefing on the lodge.
Tonight we will enjoy dinner at the lodge before heading out on an optional 'night jungle' walk.
Head into the jungle with our local, multilingual guides and encounter magnificent fauna and flora in their natural habitat. We may spot everything from macaws and monkeys to peccary, jabirus, otters and thousands of butterflies. The guides can also teach us about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants.

The lodge is eco-friendly and combines low-impact architecture with traditional native style. Rooms are simple, but comfortable with flush toilets (en suite), showers (cold water only), mosquito nets and kerosene lamps for light.
If Lima is Peru's head, Cuzco is definitely the country's heart and soul. A town perfectly suited to exploration by foot, discover the central plaza's ornate colonial churches and then head for the impressive Inca ruins dotting the city's outskirts.
Travel by private bus through the lush terraces of the Sacred Valley, stopping en route at a local village to gain an insight into traditional Inca culture. Meet friendly locals on a community visit before spending the night in the ancient town of Ollantaytambo – one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Depending on the travel arrangements you made before the trip, during the next four days you’ll be doing one of the following: hiking the Classic Inca Trail, hiking the Inca Quarry Trail or staying in Cuzco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. While away from Cuzco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cuzco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (6 kg maximum).
Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cuzco and only travel with the necessary items during the excursion by train.

Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Today travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3,100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, as well as incredible views of snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal.
Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and inflatable camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3,700 meters above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.

Notes: The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and inflatable camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 3 Train:
After spending the night in the Ollantaytambo, leave around 9.30 am and take a short drive to the town of Pisac. Pisac is well known for its market. Here you’ll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local Empanadas. Arrive back into Cuzco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to San Pedro Market in order to buy some things for a picnic tomorrow. In the late afternoon, you’ll have an option to visit the Choco Museum where you can try some artisanal chocolate that is prepared in house from cacao beans into a chocolate bar. Be sure to sample some of the delicious hot chocolate.

Notes: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek as you ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4,200 meters above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3,650 metres.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4,370 meters high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 meters. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.

Route 3 Train:
Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cuzco. From here you’ll take a short downhill walk (between one and three hours) back to Cuzco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cuzco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time to go shopping, or perhaps visit Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops. Your tour leader will be able to give you some suggestions or point you in the right direction.

Notes: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3,980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around two to three hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3,850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.

Route 3 Train:
After a drive to Ollantaytambo (about one and a half hours), catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (another one and a half hours). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day (dependent on ticket availability). Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs at Aguas Calientes.

Notes: Included lunch on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Inca Trail:
This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu. The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and begin hiking by 5.30 am. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over Machu Pichu ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as the sun rises (and before it’s crawling with tourists).

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5:30 am this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 30 minutes. At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.

Route 3 Train:
Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cuzco.
For all trails - after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cuzco for a well-deserved shower and a pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure.

Notes: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cuzco's sights. Rest weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas. For those who can't get enough active adventure, why not try mountain biking in the hills that surround Cuzco.
Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). There will be a couple of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.
Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, sitting at 3,820 m above sea level. From the shoreline, the water stretches out almost as far as the eye can see, its expanses just waiting to be explored.
Take a tour of the lake by slow motor boat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros originally built their islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes. The islands are built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including the boats which can last up to 12 months.

To get a closer look at daily life in the Lake Titicaca region, we'll be welcomed into local homes for an overnight stay on a local community. Make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities or trying to chat in the local language, Quechua. A game of soccer is also a great way to make local friends.

Our homestay is a mudbrick house. Rooms have beds and many blankets, there are shared drop toilets but no showers.
This morning after breakfast board the boat again for a visit to Taquile Island (approx 1 hour), where knitting is strictly a male domain and women do the spinning. This is a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. An uphill trek of about an hour brings us to the main area of the island and after the visit we descend about 500 steps back to our boat.

Transfer back to Puno by boat (approx 3 hrs).
Kamisaki! Welcome to Bolivia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
At around 3,600 m, La Paz feels like the top of the world. It's not far from it and vies with Tibet for the title of highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the centre of commerce, finance and industry. Despite the abundance of colonial architecture, La Paz's indigenous roots run deep, and the atmosphere in the market-filled streets is both modern and traditional.
La Paz is renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechiceria or Witches' Market. Browse through the weird and wonderful stalls which sell everything from potions to incantations made from herbs, seeds and unidentified bits and pieces to cure any ailment. If this is all too much for you, try the more conventional markets where you'll find ponchos, gloves, hats and many other products made of alpaca wool, leather and other traditional materials.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!

Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.

During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:

http://d3oxn90f3yphmd.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/file_attach/52735_product_altitude-sickness.pdf
DEATH ROAD BIKING TO COROICO:
Please note that our leaders are not able to organize this activity for you due to safety concerns. Injuries are very common and there have been a number of fatal accidents.
Perhaps hop on a local bus out to the Moon Valley to experience this extraordinary natural landscape on the outskirts of La Paz or visit the Coca Museum and learn about this infamous plant that has for centuries been an essential part of life in the Andes.
If you want to discover more about the region’s fascinating history, enjoy a half-day tour to the Tiwanaku ruins outside of La Paz. Another great optional activity is a full-day tour to the coffee and coca plantations of Coroico, situated in the rainforest below the city.
Please note this trip is part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip in Lima, 15 days ago on the Peru and Bolivia Uncovered (GGSUC)
Explore the strange and stunning landscapes of the Salar de Uyuni by 4x4. Infinite blue skies meet endless white salt on what was once a prehistoric lake, making for plenty of fun and fantastical photo opportunities. Continue on to Laguna Colorado – a shallow salt lake of magnificent red hues dotted by bright pink flamingos.
Uyuni is the starting point of our 3-day 4WD excursion into Salar de Uyuni and the Andean desert.

This morning we have an included visit to the train cemetery.
The Train Cemetery is located 3 km outside of Uyuni Town and is connected to it by the old train tracks. The town served in the past as a distribution hub for the trains carrying minerals on their way to the Pacific Ocean ports.
In the 1940s however the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.

The remainder of the day is spent mostly on the salt lake itself.
We will also visit Isla Inca Wasi, a hilly and rocky outcrop of land and former island in Bolivia situated in the middle of Salar de Uyuni. The island is filled with Cactus's and large coral like structures. We will spend time time walking around admiring the unusual yet beautiful landscapes.

The massive salt plains of Bolivia are an incredible sight and offer plenty of opportunities for bizarre, perspective-defying photos. Endless blue skies meet endless white salt on what was once a prehistoric lake. From December to March there is a risk of the salt lake being flooded and the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate this.
Please make the most of your time on the salt flats, take lots of photos as the following day we will be leaving the salt flats for the Andean Desert.

Accommodation in Salar de Uyuni: (Basic Dormitory)
Today is spent driving through amazing landscapes. This is the beginning of the Andean dessert with many volcanoes & lakes. During this drive we reach an altitude of approximately 4900mtrs above sea level.
We stop by Laguna Colorada (red lake), a rich red lake vividly colored by algae and rich minerals. One of the strangest sights in such arid and inhospitable land is be the abundant wildlife. Spot llamas, flamingos, vizcachas and foxes.

Accommodation in the desert is basic. There are showers however it’s likely the water will be cold. During the winter months or in the morning when cold it’s also possible for the pipes to freeze, meaning it will not be possible to take a shower. Electricity is generated by solar panel so not enough to charge electronic devices. The Desert is at high altitude and can experience extremely cold weather, particularly at night. In the rainy season, the itinerary may be altered depending on the accessibility of roads.

Be aware, this trip can be tough going. There will be long travel days in 4WDs on dusty washboard tracks, freezing temperatures, basic toilet facilities and multishare accommodation. However, without a doubt, this amazing journey will be one of the main highlights of your trip to South America.

Accommodation in Andean Desert: (Very basic Dormitory)
Apart from providing geysers and snow-capped volcanoes, the volcanic landscape also gives us the chance to relax in the region's thermal baths. This morning before returning to Uyuni we stop at the thermal baths for a soak.
The loveliness of Potosi - one of the highest and more fascinating cities in the world - is mirrored by the harshness of its mines and mining history.
A journey by local bus takes us to Sucre (approx 3-4 hrs).
Bolivia's official capital, Sucre was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. Most of the town's colonial buildings have been whitewashed, earning its nickname - the 'White City'. For great views of the city head up to Recoleta, an old convent on top of the hill.
Head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to mingle with Sucre's well-heeled residents and have a look at the beautiful interior of the Iglesia de la Merced.

For something completely different, compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where 60 million-year-old footprints have been discovered
Return to La Paz by plane. Use free time to get to know a different side of the city at the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market) – a place brimming with unusual trinkets and curious sights. Locals visit here for herbs, folk remedies and fortune-telling services. Keep an eye out for yatiri (witch doctors) who circulate throughout the market. Opt to finish the trip with a farewell group dinner, a great opportunity to say goodbye to new friends and share memories of the trip.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
24 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
Transport
4x4, Boat, Bus, Kayak, Plane, Private minibus, Private vehicle
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights), Dormitory (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (16 nights), Jungle Lodge (2 nights)
Included activities
  • 3 Night / 4 Day Inca Trail (or Quarry Trail) and a guided tour of Machu Picchu
  • 3d/2n Amazon Jungle stay
  • Coca Museum
  • Lake Titicaca boat tour & homestay
  • Leader-led walking tour

Dates

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For information about altitude sickness click here


Important notes

Inca Trail permits are sold on request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you.

If Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you can opt to hike the Inca Quarry Trail instead.

The Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you will be automatically booked to hike the Inca Quarry Trail.

Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made. Without this prior warning, local fees may apply.

Important information regarding new regulations and booking procedures for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

A single supplement is available on this trip. On the following nights the single supplement is not available:

Days 2-3 Amazon Jungle

The excursion to Uyuni salt lake is on shared basis and your group size may be larger than12 travellers.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Explore Peru & Bolivia trips score an average of 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 reviews in the last year.

Explore Peru & Bolivia , November 2015

Explore Peru & Bolivia , November 2015